THE Ombudsman’s investigation of Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ plunder complaint over the alleged hidden wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte and his family would be less tangled and confused if Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales would desist from making herself the story, every time she takes up the issue.
When she announced in September 2017 that her office would conduct a fact-finding probe into the complaint, she made a big show of recusing herself from the investigation because the president’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, is married to her nephew. This made her out as quite principled and forthright.
In October, the Ombudsman’s Office, through the deputy ombudsman Melchor Carandang, publicly announced that it had in its possession documents attesting to the Dutertes’ bank accounts, and that these were purportedly given to them by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
This claim was subsequently denounced by the AMLC as a total lie. The office had given no documents or copies of documents to the Ombudsman’s Office, it said. Yet, even with the official denial, the Ombudsman made no move to correct the mistake made by her office.
It now turns out that sometime in November last year, the Ombudsman’s Office terminated the fact–finding probe. But it did not make the matter public.
When the President, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, ordered the suspension of the deputy ombudsman because of his handling of the complaint and the false declarations, Ombudsman Morales made a big show of defying the presidential order. She declared that she would not comply, because of an alleged ruling of the Supreme Court that virtually placed her office out of the supervisory powers of the president. This is a matter that requires clarification.
Last Thursday, the Ombudsman publicly confirmed that the probe stemming from Senator Trillanes’ plunder complaint against the president had been terminated in November last year. She declared that the termination of the case was due to the refusal of the AMLC to provide a report on, or confirmation of, the requested vital data.
Solicitor General Jose Calida only learned about the end of the probe this month after he wrote the Ombudsman.
In formal communication to Calida, Ombudsman Morales claimed that she learned of the termination of the probe only on January 29, because she had recused herself from the case. This was two months after the probe had been closed.
In her quandary, Morales now desires to observe a vow of silence on the issue because the case is “closed and terminated.” And it is confidential in nature.
To the Ombudsman’s discomfiture, the solicitor general apparently does not intend to shut up. He will pursue the matter further because public interest is involved.
As we see it, the public has the right to know the whole truth about this affair—from the Trillanes complaint, to the false announcement about AMLC documents, to the AMLC’s denial of the duputy ombudsman’s claims, to the termination of the probe, to the refusal of Ombudsman Morales to suspend the deputy ombudsman, to the Ombudsman’s current vow of silence.
The Ombudsman has a constitutional duty to disclose all the facts about its investigation or its failure.
If the Ombudsman found no substance to the Trillanes complaint during its investigation, it should say so. It should not cite as an excuse the AMLC’s refusal to substantiate the allegation.
Let Trillanes twist in the wind.